‘Crafting’ community the Grapevine way

Bell Green library arts and crafts group

17 April 2019.

A purl-er of an idea from two women who met at a Coventry knitting group is blossoming into a network of friends coming together weekly to chat, craft and overcome isolation.

Even when one member is having a bad week or thinks they may not show up, the others rally round and they come anyway.

So how did the arts and crafts group start?

Michelle, from Grapevine’s Help and Connect project, met Tracy at Bell Green library’s knitting circle – a large, animated, all-female group who gather each Thursday to swap skills and put the world to rights.

Although beneficial for many, Michelle and Tracy felt the dynamics weren’t quite right for quieter voices who needed time to talk and get to know others first.

The ladies they were thinking of had learning disabilities, long term health conditions or different experiences with their mental health.

So the duo took a shared love of arts and crafts – plus a generous helping of Tracy’s personal craft supplies – and set up a new, smaller group on a different day.

Still at the library, the two-hour Tuesday session provides a space to create and catch up on the week’s events, lending an empathetic ear, advice or practical support as needed.

There are five core members (including a man now) of the purposely select group, meaning it remains safe and supportive – no posters on a notice board here. Everyone involved is accepting of one another’s differences.

Tea and crafts at the library
Members bring a contribution towards refreshments

Its need is undeniable as people regularly arrive early and leave later than the scheduled finish time. The session helps them feel more connected.

The library location has stuck because it is local and accessible even on days when it can be hard to leave the house. The library provides hot water and the group brings the tea, coffee and biscuits.

The five have also enjoyed Christmas lunch together at a local café and a cooked breakfast at another eatery across town.

Tracy windmill painting
Tracy’s latest painting

Encouragement was evident at the session we attended when painting was on the agenda (other crafts have included Christmas decorations and 5D art) as Tracy coaxed: “If you always do the same thing, you never stretch yourself and you never find out what you can do.”

A fitting way to sum it up we thought.

Michelle recalls another recent exchange with Tracy along the lines of: “Are we doing something good here then?” – to which Michelle replied, “You don’t realise the impact this is having on people!”

From small gestures, come big things. And when Michelle moves on to help others get connected, she can be sure the group will continue.

Help and Connect by Grapevine is commissioned by Coventry City Council.

We’re celebrating this story as one of our 25 stories for 25 years of Grapevine. Look out for more stories and a big event coming this October!

25th anniversary logo

No ordinary gig…

The gang

2 April 2019.

An early Spring evening in Coventry, the last Saturday of March. Crowds are arriving for a gig at a former coal storage bunker in the city’s Canal Basin, now a thriving music and arts venue.

Molly and Kirsty on the door
Molly and Kirsty on the door

But this is no ordinary gig – it’s months of hard work come to fruition to take one troubling statistic and make inroads into changing it.

This is the first Coventry Youth Activists (CYA) #CYASaturdays gig, a campaign aiming to challenge the fact that one in three young disabled people spend less than an hour outside their home on a Saturday. A day when most other people are out and about enjoying what the weekend has to offer.

The story behind the statistic tells how for some of these young people logistics can be the problem – wheelchair access for example – and for others, fear of the unknown, not knowing how to find the place they want to go to and what to do once they get there, stop the fun before it even starts.

Some of CYA chat before the gig
Some of CYA chat before the gig

So Grapevine’s youth democracy group set about doing something about it and everyone – CYA included – has been amazed by its success.

The #CYASaturdays Presents SOLD OUT with over 100 gig-goers of all abilities coming to The Tin Music and Arts event on 30 March.

It showcased three acts, all donating their time for free, plus inimitable double act Rishard and Richard (referring to themselves as Coventry’s answer to Ant and Dec) compering the night.

Rishard and Richard
Rishard and Richard

Young people came from all over the city, finding out about the event through social media, events and meet ups and school mailers. Some came with family, others with friends and some had never been to a gig before. Three even got up on stage to sing!

One Mum commented that her son enjoyed the gig and for her “it was important as it provided an opportunity for him to be a 14-year-old.” And that’s the whole point really.

The CYA ‘crew’ wore their trademark yellow t-shirts firstly to offer a point of contact for anyone feeling unsure and secondly so they could rightly own the success of the night!

Izeidi Izeidi perform
Izeidi Izeidi perform

But they didn’t do it alone. So a big thank you to the venue, to the acts Izeidi Izeidi, Duck Thieves, Lily Hayes (from CYA), Rishard Beckett and Richard Walls. And of course, everyone who came and had fun! Until next time… [mic drop].

Photos by John Whitmore Photography.

About CYA and Grapevine’s 25th anniversary

CYA is a group of young people of all abilities who want to challenge and change inequalities faced by themselves and others.

Their numbers have grown from two when the group was first funded by the Henry Smith Charity in 2017 to 17 this month.

25th anniversary logo

We’re celebrating their story as the first of our 25 stories for 25 years of Grapevine. Look out for more stories and a big event coming in October!

CYA are meeting fortnightly to progress their next #CYASaturdays ideas into plans and action. Want to know more, get involved or offer help? Check them out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or email mgillespie@grapevinecovandwarks.org

£250k government and lottery funding puts Stoke Aldermoor community at helm to tackle local issues

Community choice

18 February 2019.

A quarter of a million in government and lottery cash is being injected into one of Coventry’s most deprived areas following a successful bid by Grapevine and a group of community-minded citizens.

PBSA map

It’s part of a £2.3 million nation-wide pot of funding to help people across England make their local areas a better place to live by investing their own time, skills and connections.

Announcing the funding in a House of Commons debate last week (14 February), Minister for Civil Society Mims Davies said:

“This investment in communities the length and breadth of the country will help even more people take action on the issues they care about most, including helping more volunteering, giving more money directly to local causes that people feel connected with in their community and supporting even more simple neighbourly acts, which can mean so much.”

Of the 10 triumphant partnerships, just two are Midlands-based and only Grapevine in the West Midlands / Warwickshire area will benefit from the money provided jointly by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and The National Lottery Community Fund.

It follows January’s news that Grapevine is bringing another £97k into the city to boost a community of connected self-care amongst residents with a long term health condition or a chronic illness (also funded by DCMS and The National Lottery Community Fund).

Six women from Stoke Aldermoor
Six women from Stoke Aldermoor are leading the project

The £250k Place Based Social Action Scheme in Stoke Aldermoor will continue to build on foundations already laid by a group of local residents led by six women.

The six have been meeting weekly for several months to share stories and ideas on how they might transform their neighbourhood into a place less divided by difference and more united by a common purpose to be better.

The process to this point has involved around 500 conversations, 10 social suppers, a trip to Weston-super-Mare and a bit of Grapevine magic!

Social supper
Social supper

The group’s vision specifically focuses on children, young people and their families with a series of ongoing activities to help integrate and connect the different communities living there.

Some of the ideas in the ‘social action plan’ so far include a one stop support shop; more training opportunities for young people; improved provision for families to build parenting skills and raise aspirations; a family walking group; a summer school; and the creation of an annual festival to celebrate the area’s diversity.

Stoke Aldermoor is not unique in many of the challenges it faces – reduction in services, integration of new arrivals, unemployment, crime, social apathy and external stigma.

The funding however greatly increases its chances of changing these dynamics by getting others involved, building community cohesion, dealing with problems together and embracing future possibilities.

Follow the Stoke Aldermoor story as it unfolds on our website, Facebook, Twitter, Wakelet and very soon… Instagram!

CYA Saturdays Presents… their first ever live gig!

5 February 2019.

What do an 18th century former coal storage bunker and a group of young Coventry activists have in common? Well, they’re combining next month to host a live gig like no other at the heart of the city’s Canal Basin.

CYA Saturdays Presents gig poster

For those who don’t know, Coventry Youth Activists (or CYA as they’re known) are a group of young disabled people who want to say “CYA” to the inequalities faced by themselves and others.

They identify the issues that are important to them, give them a good shake and come up with campaigns that set about changing these barriers.

The #CYASaturdays Presents… gig on 30 March is one facet of their latest campaign to challenge the disheartening statistic that one in three young people spend less than an hour outside their home on Saturday.

The Saturday night showcase – on a Saturday of course! – features local talent in the shape of bands Duck Thieves, Izeidi Izeidi and CYA’s own singer/songwriter/guitarist Lily Hayes.

Lily says: ““I have autism but I won’t let it stop me from being a singer. It’s who I am and is part of me.”

The night will be compered by actor / theatre maker duo Rishard Beckett and Richard Walls.

The gig is accessible to all and tickets are just £4 in advance or £6 on the door. The venue is The Tin Music and Arts – a charitable organisation committed to fostering art, creativity and talent at the Canal Basin and throughout the city.

So come out and support what will be a great night as well as a good cause. There’ll be music, laughter and a few surprises and above all you’ll be making a group of young activists very happy! We want as many people there as possible who don’t usually get out and about on a Saturday too.

Get your tickets here – show starts at 8pm.

You can also check out @Covactivists on Instagram.

£97k coming to Coventry to boost emerging culture of self care

7 January 2019.

Grapevine is leading the charge against loneliness for local people with long term health conditions, thanks to £97,261 in new government funding.

The sizeable slice of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) £11.5m pie is one of only two grants in the Warwickshire area (the other being the People’s Pantry in Nuneaton and Bedworth), with several more awarded across the West Midlands.

99,000 people in Coventry have a long term health condition
Artwork by @FeelGoodMel

The Building Connections Fund provides a cash injection for 126 much-needed organisations and projects throughout England that are finding innovative ways to tackle the ongoing social issue of loneliness.

The fund was created in 2018 in partnership between the government, Big Lottery Fund* and the Co-op Foundation.

Minister for Loneliness, Mims Davies, said: “There is no one cause of loneliness and therefore no one solution. That is why we are working alongside a broad range of businesses, voluntary organisations and local councils to ensure that those who feel alone are best supported.”

Happiness Walk
A Self Care Social ‘Happiness Walk’

The announcement about Grapevine’s successful bid came just before Christmas and will help bolster growing Coventry-based initiative Self Care Social.

The first Self Care Social event took place in July 2018 at Coventry University’s Social Enterprise Hub and has been gathering momentum ever since.

The movement’s vision is of a connected culture of self care for the estimated 99,000 – or approximately one in three – residents in Coventry who have a long term health condition.

The vision itself was co-created by some of the people it is aimed at – including former teacher Melissa Smith, who was forced to find an alternative career after being diagnosed with the rare spinal condition Symptomatic Tarlov Cyst Disease in 2014.

Common shared issues
Members of the movement have shared the common issues they face daily

Melissa went on to secure a role as a community organiser for Grapevine through the Better Health, Better Care, Better Value programme and build her own social enterprise Feel Good Community.

She and the Self Care ‘socialites’ hope to gather more people in from the fringes to support one another’s ideas, build collective action for positive change and most important of all, make the journey together. The Building Connections funding will help them do that.

If you or someone you know would like to get involved in Self Care Social – sharing self care tips, making friends, telling your story to inspire others, organising social events… making cake – visit Self Care Social on Facebook or drop us a line here and we’ll pass your details on. There are free events coming up in January and February.

Read more about how Self Care Social got started on the Feel Good Com website here.

*The Big Lottery Fund becomes the National Lottery Community Fund from 30 January.

Farewell 2018! You’ve been great…

Farewell 2018!

19 December 2018.

Our final post of 2018. And what a year it has been.

We’ve sparked new movements of people who care about an issue – Connecting for Good (isolation) and Self Care Social (long term health conditions/self care) – and grown existing ones with Feel Good Community.

Longer term projects such as Help and Connect and Better Lives have gone from strength to strength, building the capacity of individuals and families to lead the lives they want and deserve.

Accelerate continues to help people with a learning disability or autism find secure, paid work.

System change in Willenhall through the Ignite partnership with Central England Law Centre has made tangible in-roads into nurturing strong communities who get early and effective help when they need it.

And the young people involved in Teenvine Plus and Coventry Youth Activists have progressed in leaps and bounds throughout the year with – amongst other things – appearances on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire radio, a performance at the Godiva Festival and a weekend away to see a gig in Brighton! Phenomenal.

The Big Plan is helping young people, alongside their families and friends, to think creatively about and plan for the life that they want after school.

Plus our involvement in Warwickshire is expanding from Warwickshire Empowerment Service with the new Community Powered Advocacy service, aimed at people with a ‘vulnerability’ not receiving services from social care.

Not to mention our CEO Clare Wightman travelling the length and breadth of the country making sure we’re at all the right tables for change.

There is also some exciting news coming in January on two more new projects. Fingers crossed it is all we hope for.

Wishing you a Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year from everyone at Grapevine.

Social Living Room #2

Social Living Room by Connecting for Good

28 November 2018.

It’s happening again but this time it’s different.

This Friday (30 November) #ConnectingforGood meet for their second Social Living Room at Theatre Absolute in Coventry at 5pm.

But this time the free event starts with an outdoor game around the city centre, designed by Laina and Alice to work up a good appetite ready for soup, homemade bread and thinking up ideas for new adventures in the city and beyond. Plus some light entertainment from Rishard and Paul!

Please come along if you have experienced or are currently experiencing isolation or loneliness. You may simply care about the cause. We need everyone on board so we can make a real difference.

Click here for the event details on Facebook. If you’re not on Facebook, rest assured we’ll be there at 5pm to welcome you. Don’t forget to wrap up warm!

Connecting for Good is sparking a movement against isolation in Coventry and is funded for three years by the Big Lottery Fund.

A week in the life of Grapevine

a week in the life of

27 November 2018.

Dear Diary, it’s been a busy week!

So to catch you up here’s a quick round up of the different things happening at Grapevine in the last seven days! Just the tip of the iceberg really…

Monday 19 November

Teenvine Plus Manager Chloe travelled to London with the Coventry Youth Partnership to attend the UK Youth Awards.

Alongside other local organisations including Positive Youth Foundation (PYF), Coventry Girls and Boys Club and C O Visions, Chloe met Princess Anne.

Chloe and Princess Anne
Chloe is second from left, next to Rashid Bayat from PYF

Tuesday 20 November

Kyla from the Better Lives project joined Coventry City Council engagement staff for a training day on ‘Co-Production in Public Engagement and Consultation Principles and Practices.’

Grapevine was offered a place on the course as one of the council’s community partners and Kyla can now share what she learned with the rest of the team.

Kyla training course


Wednesday 21 November

Project worker Molly from Teenvine Plus and Warwickshire Empowerment Service has started collecting Christmas shoe boxes to donate to Coventry Open Christmas – a project that provides shelter and food each year to the homeless and lonely over the festive period.

Each shoebox (or alternative small cardboard box) can contain items such as toiletries, sweets, hats and gloves – basically anything that might help someone feel a little brighter on Christmas morning. Click the link above if you’re interested in joining in.


Thursday 22 November

Help and Connect’s Michelle finished making her first knitted blanket for premature babies born at University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire.

The weekly handicraft group at Bell Green Library taught her how – next on the list are tiny cardigans! Join in each Thursday from 10am – 12 noon (50p for tea/coffee). Michelle attends so she can make connections for people with a learning disability in Coventry who don’t use formal services.

Michelle baby blanket


Local photographer and friend of Grapevine Alan Van Wijgerden released another of his 50 one-minute films of Coventry people talking about what they’re up to – this time featuring Grapevine’s Melissa!

See what she has to say about how her health problems set her on a path to combining creativity and bringing people together in the shape of Feel Good Community.


Friday 23 November

Teenvine Plus and Coventry Youth Activists posted pics of their evening out on Thursday to Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market – looks like they had a ‘fantastisch’ time!

Aged 13 to 18 and passionate about fighting for disabled people’s right to a good life? Contact the team at admin@grapevinecovandwarks.org

Read what Stay Up Late had to say about CYA’s recent stay to Brighton here.

Teenvine at German Market


Monday 26 November

Act Build Change founder Steph Leonard (and regular Grapevine trainer) is visiting to shadow and advise on our work on anti-isolation movement Connecting for Good – look out for a new video coming out very soon featuring one of the people we’ve met.

It is also the first day of a full team (Ben, Alex and Helena) working on the new Community Powered Advocacy service in Warwickshire.

This fresh and innovative service is aimed at helping people with a ‘vulnerability’ overcome their immediate problems, build their capacity to speak up for themselves and connect them to other people in their community. Watch this space as the team start connecting with other services and the people they are there to help.

Looking forward to seeing what the rest of this week might bring.

GV x

All-time Children in Need total hits £1bn – here’s how we spend our bit

CYA on Brighton Pier

19 November 2018.

Last Friday’s Children in Need Appeal Show brought in £50.6m according to BBC News – taking the total amount of money raised since fundraising began 38 years ago in 1980 to over £1 billion.

Here at Grapevine Coventry and Warwickshire we are part-funded by Children in Need to run our Teenvine Plus and Coventry Youth Activists (CYA) projects to give young people with disabilities opportunities to forge friendships, build confidence and independence, and unlock their potential to live a full, happy life bolstered by a strong network and great experiences.

Thank you to everyone who makes this possible through their donations to fundraising – we couldn’t do it without you.

Here are a couple of quick glimpses into the fun and innovation that surrounds CYA’s activities… the first to mark their one-year anniversary last month and the second is their recent weekend away to watch a gig in Brighton.

Remember remember the 8th of November!

Alice and Daniel

Monday 5 November 2018.

When Daniel Met Alice.

In August, Daniel was cycling through Spon End when he stumbled across a table, some coloured chalk and a collection of handwritten placards bearing individual messages of isolation and hope.

Standing at the table was Alice from Grapevine and Daniel felt compelled to stand still and take it all in. This was exactly what the silent megaphone event was designed to do – stop people in their tracks.

Following that first serendipitous chat with Alice, Daniel came to the Connecting for Good Ideas Factory the following month and sat with a group of strangers who were talking about how better communication between agencies, organisations and people could go a long way to helping Coventry people feel less socially isolated.

Since the event, Daniel has taken the ‘People’s Directory’ idea and run with it. He’s been spreading the word on the #connectingforgood movement, drawing both professionals and public in with his boundless enthusiasm for making positive change.

This Thursday (8 November) marks the next milestone for Daniel – who is now leading a community of people who care about better communications – with the first Communications Forum, spawned from those original group discussions at the Ideas Factory.

This is Invitation > Idea > Leadership > Event > Progress in action and it’s exciting to see!

So, would you like to see some sort of directory created that would make finding out what is going in Coventry easier? It could include communities and groups to join, hobbies and activities that are happening, opportunities to take part in positive causes, events to attend (or even help run!), or simply services that offer advice and support.

How could we do this? What would YOU do? If you have ideas, come to the Communications Forum! Everyone is welcome.

Date: Thursday 8 November

Time: 6pm – 7.30pm

Place: Change Grow Live (CGL), 1A Lamb Street, Coventry CV1 4AE

Click here to join the event on Facebook or simply come along.

There will also be free food provided by Arabian Bites – a vegan café specialising in Middle Eastern cuisine, staffed by refugees.

Contact Alice if you would like any further information: agroux@grapevinecovandwarks.org / 07776 509206